John's Journal...

Advanced Deer Calling Tactics

Day 2: Quaker Boy’s Dick Kirby Explains the Fine Art of Rattling for Deer

Editor’s Note: Deer calling is growing in popularity throughout the nation. Finally, deer- hunting aids are on the market that can stop a buck that is out of range, get his attention and cause him to come back and look for the hunter. Although many-different types of calls are available, they all seem to fall into three basic categories – rattling anglers, grunt calls and bleat calls. Each call has information in its package telling you how to use the call. But the small subtleties and tactics employed by master callers can make these calls much-more effective. These masters of the sport of deer calling have unique insights that will enable you to call more effectively and lure in more bucks each time you hunt. Today we’re looking at ways to increase the number of deer you see when you’re calling.

Click for Larger ViewThe late Dick Kirby of Orchard Park, New York, the founder of Quaker Boy Calls ( and nationally-recognized hunter and caller, annually called-in bucks to take them with conventional guns, bow and arrows and black powder. “I was hunting in Texas one year and had moved into a bedding area. I only had about 35 yards of visibility. My guide said, ‘Get ready to shoot because when the deer comes-in, he will come-in quickly.’ As the guide began to rattle, I saw a flicker of movement in the bush. The guide curled his trigger finger as if to say, ‘This one is a shooter.’ In less than a heartbeat, a 138-point Boone & Crockett buck was standing in front of me. I had to take the shot quickly as my guide had predicted. Rattling produces bucks and especially big bucks; it can make these deer come quickly. One of the most-overlooked aspects for effective antler rattling to lure-in bucks is how you set-up, which actually is more important than the way you use the antlers. You need an open area for setting-up to look in all directions. When you rattle, a buck may come-in behind you just as quickly as he will in front of you. Always try to set-up using the wind to your advantage. If you think a buck is in a thicket, set-up with the wind blowing from the thicket toward you. Then when you rattle, the buck will walk with the wind and not be able to smell you. The best time to rattle is later in the morning, because that time of day is when the bucks should be in the thickets bedded-down. I use rattling to pull bucks out of a thicket and into open regions where I can get a shot.

“Before you begin to rattle, make sure you’re attempting to rattle a buck into an area where he wants to go. Rattling along trails, at feeding regions or near bedding sites will be much-more effective than rattling a buck and trying to get him to swim a river or come to a place he normally won’t go. Here’s a rattling checklist. Before you start to rattle an area for bucks, try to determine where the buck is, which direction the buck probably will come from, and why the buck should be coming from that direction. Also, make sure the buck comes with the wind and that you can see the buck approach from any direction. By knowing this information before you start to rattle, your chances of taking a buck are greatly increased.

Click for Larger View“Another critical key to effective rattling is having the right size and sound of antlers. Antlers are like musical instruments and have different parts that are played to produce various sounds. The tips can be tinkled together to sound like bucks lightly touching antlers. The main beams of the rattling antlers should have mass to them, so they can be hit together hard to sound like clashing of antlers. One of the best horn antler rattlers I’ve met is Forrest Armke at the Ford Ranch ( He practices rattling so much that each year he gets better and better. Match the antlers you rattle by size and configuration to the bucks on the land you’re hunting. For instance, if you’re hunting in a region that rarely produces a buck bigger than a 6 point, don’t go in and use rattling antlers from a 140-point B&C buck. The more the antlers represent the size of the deer in the place you’re hunting, the more productive your rattling will be. Even when you use antlers that may be as big as the biggest deer in an area, you still will lure-in smaller bucks that want to come and watch a fight. Large rattling antlers don’t always yield big bucks.

Click for Larger ViewBut if the antlers do call-up a buck, more than likely the deer will come-in quickly and won’t stay long. When a buck comes running-in to rattling antlers, he expects to see a fight. If he doesn’t see a fight, he’ll leave immediately. When you’re bowhunting, have a partner do the rattling, and be prepared to make the shot when the buck responds. If you’re gun hunting, as soon as you stop rattling, ready your gun. The buck may come-in very quickly, and you may have to take a fast shot. Often a hunter doesn’t have an opportunity to bag the bucks he rattles-in, because he’s not prepared for the shot. A bowhunter should aim for the bottom of the heart if he’s rattling-up a buck, because most of the time when the deer hears the string or spots any movement, the deer will drop-down before it springs. Consequently, many archers shoot over the bucks of the deer they try to rattle-in to where they are. But if you shoot at the lower part of the deer’s heart, then if the deer drops-down to spring, you’ll hit a solid lung shot. Rattling is an exciting and quick method of calling deer. I never rattle more than 10 or 15 minutes in one site before I move. If the buck can hear the antlers, he’ll move-in quickly. If the buck doesn’t come-in immediately, more than likely he’s not in the region.

Click for Larger View“Using the grunt tube when you’re rattling is a productive tactic, too. I was hunting in Missouri one year and had rattled-in a buck. He stopped before he got close enough for me to take a shot with my bow. I blew the grunt call, the deer came-in, and I took the shot. I missed the buck, and he ran about 10 yards. I grunted again. The buck stopped. I grunted one more time, and the buck started coming back to me. As I nocked my second arrow, the arrow fell against the bow and made a clicking sound. The deer heard the sound, snorted and then ran-off. When I turned to look behind my tree stand, a second buck stood there. Apparently the second deer had seen the first buck come-in, heard me grunt and watched the first buck run-off. This second buck continued to come-in to where I was, and I took him. Many times when you use the grunt call, you may call-in more than one buck. You may be able to stop a buck you have spooked and call a buck you have missed. I use two-different types of grunts – an early-season grunt, which is short, quick, aggressive grunts, often five or six notes in a row; and a late-season grunt, which is a rutting, subtle, softer type of grunt that’s less aggressive and uses longer notes. The bleat call also is a very effective call with deer. Although most hunters may think the bleat is used primarily to call-in does, it can and will call-in bucks. Also, if you’re hunting during the rut and call-in a doe with a bleat call, often a doe will have a buck with her. I use all three types of deer calls when I’m hunting. At some times and in some places, one or the other calls will produce better than another call will. My advice is to learn to use all the calls and let the situation dictate which call you use, where and when.”

To learn more about successfully hunting deer, purchase John E. Phillips’ books, “The Masters’ Secrets of Hunting Deer,” “The Science of Deer Hunting,” “How to Take Monster Bucks,” and “Masters’ Secrets of Bowhunting Deer” at

Tomorrow: David Hale Explains How to Take Deer with Grunt and Bleat Calls

Check back each day this week for more about "Advanced Deer Calling Tactics "

Day 1: Tips for Successfully Calling Deer
Day 2: Quaker Boy’s Dick Kirby Explains the Fine Art of Rattling for Deer
Day 3: David Hale Explains How to Take Deer with Grunt and Bleat Calls
Day 4: Eddie Salter’s Tactics for Taking Deer with Grunt and Bleat Calls
Day 5: Brad Harris and Larry Norton on Techniques for Taking Deer

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Entry 643, Day 2